An afternoon in Ohrid

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Pipes Are Calling

I've decided that I don't need a dog as an excuse to take a walk in the morning, so on the mornings that I am not commuting into Skopje to work I've been taking a walk along the Vardar river.  The heat has broken, and the morning was cool with a touch of autumn in the air.  The water in the river, now fed only by springs and not by mountain run-off, is so clear it is invisible.  The mountains that frame Gostivar stood out in sharp relief in the fresh morning air.  The higher trees are just beginning to change color.  Pigeons lingered by the banks drinking and taking their morning baths, and a water ouzel dipped in and out as it flew along. 

I'm marking the end of my last summer in Gostivar and I view these things with sweet melancholy.  This time is Gostivar at its best.  The great diaspora are heading to their homes in Europe and elsewhere, and the pace of the city has slowed.  During the evenings and into the night crowds still gather at coffee shops and benches in the park, and the chocolate donut man, roasted corn vendors and toy/miniature car merchants still fill the central square.  But the crowd is more subdued and the noise now falls gently onto my ears.  Next week school will start and summer will officially be over.

Inside Luli's coffee shop
Many of my friends are leaving or have left.  Only a handful of my Peace Corps class remain in country, and in a couple of months my friends from the next class will start leaving.  Elona will soon start a new job and her eldest, Lule, will start public school.  Next week, too, marks the first anniversary of the coffee shop, and before too long the tables will be pulled in from the outside to hunker down for winter.  Vjosa leaves tomorrow for NYU and a great adventure, and soon Gordana too will leave for a new job in Skopje.  Many of the students we worked with are starting college.  And before I know it, it will be time for me to leave as well.

Looking down on Saranda
My nephew Clark came and visited - he'd always wanted to go to Albania and it was my pleasure to take him.  I finally made it to the southern coast, which, as you can see, is spectacular.  We took a ferry over to the Greek island of Corfu, which has always sounded magical but after Albania felt only like a tourist trap.  The trip back was fun, however.  A very strong wind was blowing and we were pounding into the current.  We all stayed outside and leaned against the front railings of the ship and got soaked - it was like riding a roller coaster!  We swam in the sea, ate wonderful food, and found magical places for Tirana time.  One of the favorite things that happened, though, occurred on the way home.  Clark was at the airport, Elona was with the kids and family members in Vlora, and Luli and I were heading back together on the bus - a 5 hour or longer trip.  We had driven quite some way that day, turned in our rental car and didn't have time to eat, so when the bus came at 4 we were starving.  At our first stop, about an hour after we left, we bought some bananas from the banana man at the Durres bus station, which helped.  The second stop was in front of a pizza restaurant, and Luli, who knew the driver, asked him to wait.  He then ordered us each a pizza and brought two fresh pizzas on board for us.  Only in the Balkans would a driver delay a bus- load of passengers so that one could order pizzas, and only in the Balkans would no one mind.

Sunset at Ksamil
Soon my great adventure will end - Ah, but what memories I will have.  I hope I have made some difference here - if in no other way than through the friends I have met and spent time with.  I know my experience here will always have a profound impact on me.


  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Macedonia? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Macedonia in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez